November 13, 2017. Alexandria, VA.

Steel exports slipped a bit in September, falling 1.5 percent to 903,389 net tons.

The September total, which was 13.6 percent higher than a year earlier, included 428,190 net tons of exports to Canada, 4.3 percent less than in August, but 10 percent more than in September 2016. Exports of 360,282 net tons to Mexico were down 1.4 percent month-to-month but up 11 percent compared to the same time last year. Exports to Turkey increased more than 50-fold from August and more than 100-fold from the previous September to 36,744 net tons, while exports to the European Union fell 42.7 percent from the preceding month, but increased almost 10 percent from the preceding September to 21,289 net tons.

Three-fourths of the way through 2017, exports increased 12.8 percent compared to the same period in 2016 to just under 8 million net tons. Exports to Canada were up by more than one-tenth at 3.95 million net tons, while exports to Mexico swelled almost 14 percent to 3.15 million net tons. Exports to the European Union increased by almost half to 271,031 net tons.

With exports up by more than an eighth over last year – an increase that represents nearly 1 million net tons in additional steel sales – and with Canada and Mexico accounting for nearly 90 percent of the total, it is clear that the health of the domestic steel industry has much to do with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Talks are underway to overhaul the pact, and President Donald Trump – who has frequently criticized NAFTA for supposedly being bad for the United States – has expressed a willingness to withdraw from the deal altogether. Perhaps this is simply a negotiating tactic, but if the president is serious about scrapping the deal – and given that he has already pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he may not be bluffing – he should consider, among many other things, what the United States’ steel export numbers would look like if that happens.

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